Farm Focus: Local, in-season greens…now is the time!

Local, in-season Greens…now is the time!

By Carmelo Sigona

“Eating greens is a special treat” may seem more appropriate for Thumper the rabbit to say rather than a human, but eating local greens really is a special treat!

Gai lan, a tender & sweet green also known as Chinese broccoli

Gai Lan, a tender & sweet green also known as Chinese broccoli

We just welcomed Green Swiss chard (pictured) to the stores from Daylight Farms in Half Moon Bay

Greens are so low in calories per cup and are packed with vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamins A, C and K as well as potassium and iron. Another benefit, beta-carotene, helps improve immune-system functions, folic acid, calcium and magnesium, which support bone health.

Fresh greens, such as Swiss chard from Daylight Farms in Half Moon Bay, Gai Lan, Yu Choy, Thai Broccoli and Gai Choy are all coming in beautifully and are on special at just 99¢ a bunch. We also have kale, wild greens and mustard greens (see store for prices). These greens cook in just minutes and are so fresh and tender — they take me back to my childhood when my father would pick sacks and sacks of wild greens to bring home. My father just looks at fields in the Bay Area as his own garden of greens. We always had greens around, whether farm-grown or wild, and my father still adds them to most dishes – we just love the taste, not to mention the nutrients, substance and color.

An important consideration for enjoying greens is the difference in varieties and preparation. I love standing by the greens in our stores, discussing how easy these are to cook pointing out their differences: which are very bitter (Broccoli Rabe), which are sweet and tender (Gai Lan), which are better for decoration, and which are good “starter greens” (like mild Swiss chard, spinach and escarole) and which are in season now.

Greens are easy vegetables to cook and understanding characteristics is important for choosing which are best for sautés, salads or soups. The Asian greens, Yu Choy, Gai Choy, Gai Lan and Thai broccoli, are all very tender and cook up in just minutes. The stems are tender and all-edible. Other greens, like kale and collards, have tough stems and it’s best to remove them so the leafy parts of the greens don’t have to be cooked so long. With others, such as Swiss chard, you’ll want to cut off the thick stems and toss them in boiling water before adding the leaves, which, if cooked too long, become water logged and slimy.

Most all greens are a great addition to soups and these tender gems can be sautéed in just a matter of minutes Next time you try making homemade minestrone (this recipe is fantastic!), cut up some kale leaves and toss them in the broth……how easy is that?

Using local greens does more than just provide a nutrient-packed vegetable; it helps support the little local farmers who practice sustainability. Locally-grown greens are quickly transported to our stores and other farmers’ markets from nearby farms just after they’re picked, and if you don’t have the option of picking your own fresh wild greens, this is the next best thing.

It doesn’t get better than picking your own wild greens during the winter when most vine and tree produce is not in season. It’s an adventure that could become a family tradition as it was for my father. Just think of the whole state as your own garden!

Click here for recipes!

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